If you've been seeing an awful lot of headlines about the most expensive car ever sold at auction lately, you're not imagining things, because the record was actually recently broken twice in the same week, both by different Ferrari automobiles just a couple months after the previous record was broken in June. The first was an unrestored 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose which sold for $3.08 million, the most ever paid for a car purchased at an online auction for a couple days or so, after which a 2001 Ferrari 550 GT1 Prodrive smashed the record with a winning bid of $4.29 million including fees a few days later.
The latter machine was sold by RM Sotheby's, which provided a full breakdown of the car's historical significance as part of the auction materials. It was one of 12 550 GT1 chassis commissioned by the Prodrive by Care Racing Development racing program in 2001, and went on to become the winning car in the 2004 FIA GT Championship.
John Wiley, a valuation expert for the automotive lifestyle brand Hagerty, went into more detail on what made the car so valuable at auction:
"When Ferrari was justifiably concentrating on F1, customers took a modified car road racing, which had happened before with the Daytona, 365/512 BB, and F40. In this case, Prodrive – also known for Subaru rally cars – modified the 550 to go racing against cars like the Chevrolet Corvette C5R. This car won the 24 Hours of Spa in 2004."
The earlier sale – the 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose – had even more history behind it thanks to its 50+ year vintage and the fact that its previous owners reportedly kept it in nearly pristine condition for all those years. And it isn't just first and second place that are held by Ferraris in the field of most valuable cars purchased online: in fact, Wiley points out, the entire top five is stocked with Ferrari automobiles.
The Ferrari brand is so well known, Wiley says, that it makes purchasing them online (as in, without driving them first) a more sensible leap for much of the car collecting public. That, and the brand's established collectors' appeal makes them a natural for the world of online car auctions, which have seen a huge resurgence in recent months thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
For a good look at what is (for now, anyway) the most expensive car ever purchased online, check out the 2001 Ferrari 550 GT1 Prodrive in the video below from auction house RM Sotheby's: